Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Plants with Hard Water


Last year we moved from western WA (tap water pH 7 & 2-3 DH) to eastern WA (tap water pH 7.6 & 11-13 DH). Here are some of my observations on the differences...

It may not be possible to soften your water. I have tried boiling, peat, etc. with no results. CO2 does not make any difference either. I have a planted 20 high with a substrate of peat and sand, peat filter media, and sand and a DIY CO2 set up. The pH and hardness are (you guessed) 7.6 and 12. That said, it is still a nice tank, so it is not impossible to get a nice planted tank with "bad" water.
The biggest difference that I have noticed is that you need far more light to get results. My Indian fern grows OK with 3 watts per gallon. My friend on the coast (soft water) has a beautiful jungle of the same plant in a tank with one watt per gallon. I had horrible results until I doubled and tripled the lighting on what were gorgeous plant tanks when I lived on the coast.
Some plants grow slower. Java moss is a good example. I gave a friend on the coast a handful from my tank. Six months later he had a literal lawn of the stuff filling a 150 gallon tank! The parent plant, in my tank (with twice the light of his), had in those six months produced only another handful of Java moss.
Do not buy more than 1-2 new plants of the same spp. at a time. Some plants just will not adapt and you will lose them. This can cost financially if you have already bought 10 of the plant. Get 1-2 specimens and see how they do. I have had great luck with various crypts. Anubias spp. do OK as do some Amazon sword spp. (experiment). Most hygros are duds in hard alkaline water. Mexican oak does well, but gets stringy. Various spp. of Vallisneria and Sagittaria do well as does Bacopa. I have had bad luck with Java fern (I might be the only person that can not grow this plant!), but great luck with Bolbitis heudelotii. Soft leaved plants like Cabomba and Ambulia die as soon as they touch the water. Egeria densa and hornwort grow like weeds, but they also look like weeds.
In summation, do not give up because you do not have perfect water. Go heavy on the lighting and experiment with various plants to find what works.

No comments: